Following on from the success of last year’s Reading Festival of Brass, Saints were delighted to be invited once again by the Reading Spring Gardens Band to perform at this year’s event. Not resting on its laurels, the event had also grown in size from last year, with the addition of the Tadley Concert Brass band. This year’s concert moved to a new venue at the Michael Malnick Centre Theatre at Leighton Park School Reading, in order to accommodate both more musicians and spectators!
The concert itself was tinged with some sadness, due to the passing of Reading Spring Gardens’ conductor David Ruel in the days leading up to it. David was well-known and a friend to many in the brass-banding community across the country. We hope that the concert served as a fitting tribute to his memory and we were proud to be able to have been a part of this.
As with last year’s Reading Festival of Brass, this was a concert with a twist. While the purpose as always was to present an entertaining programme of music, the concert also had a slight contesting element to it. While no prizes were on offer, editor of 4BarsRest Iwan Fox was in attendance, marking each band on their performance, which had to fulfil a certain number of criteria. Each band was required to perform an overture, a march, a solo, and hymn, and then a final item of each band’s own choosing.
Performing first, Saints opened the concert with the overture Henry the Fifth by Ralph Vaughn Williams. As our solo item, Saints’ Flugel player Michael Bird performed Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s One Day, described by the composer as music which follows in the footsteps of Pat Methany’s music, who is famous for his easy listening jazz styles. Our march number came from the catalogue of Salvation Army music, Star Lake by Eric Ball, as did our hymn requirement, which was fulfilled by Darren Shaw’s Guardian of My Soul – an arrangement which combines the composer’s own song I Worship You with the well-known hymn O Jesus, I have Promised, both of which contain the lyric Guardian of my Soul. Our own-choice finale returned to the pen of Paul Lovatt-Cooper, with standing ranks of cornet and trombone players performing Horizons.
After being entertained by both Tadley Concert Brass and Reading Spring Gardens, we returned to the stage for a massed band finale of all three bands together performing Roy Newsome’s march Belmont and The Lost Chord.
The Festival was once again a great success and we were delighted to be a part of it. We look forward to similar success at the Reading Festival of Brass 2020!
Saints were extremely honoured to be asked to provide music during the funeral service for the honorary alderman of Wokingham, Mr Bob Wyatt.
The funeral of the former mayor of Wokingham took place in All Saints Church, preceded by a funeral procession which paid tribute to one of his great passions in life: the Austin Seven motorcar.
Before and after the service, the band played a number of military and army marches, again reflecting another of Mr Wyatt’s great interests. During the service, Saints provided the music to Jerusalem, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, and I Vow to Thee My Country. The Last Post was also played by the band’s cornet player and Wokingham Town Council’s honorary bugler, Damon Emes.
Saints have always been very proud to support the people and community of Wokingham and always take great pride in performing our civic duties. It was a privilege to be able to play our part in celebrating the life of Bob Wyatt – a man who had done so much for the town of Wokingham for so long.
On 24 February 2019, Saints made the relatively short trip around the M25 to The Hawth Theatre in Crawley for the SCABA Spring Contest. This has become a yearly event in the Saints calendar as the ideal opportunity to give the Regional test piece a run-out under competitive conditions away from the safety of the bandroom!
Competing in the Second Section, Saints performed the march Praise by Wilfred Heaton as our own choice march number, before this year’s Regional Test Piece Rise of the Phoenix by Darrol Barry as our major work. Unsurprisingly, every other band performed the same test piece, giving us the chance to see where we stood a few weeks before the Regional Finals themselves.
Once all bands had performed and the adjudicator, Melvin White, had tallied his scores, we were delighted to find out that we had placed in second overall – meaning that we got to take home exactly the same trophy we won the year before!
Thank you again to SCABA for running another successful Spring Contest – it is an invaluable opportunity for us to practice the Regional piece under contest conditions.
Onwards and upwards to Stevenage in a few weeks for the Regional Finals!
It has been another successful Christmas season for Saints, with concerts and carols being performed both locally and live via satellite to as far as Australia!
On 27th November 2018, the band again led the Christmas parade around the town at the Wokingham Winter Carnival. The town centre was packed with people as the procession weaved its way around the town before concluding in the centre. This year we were also extremely excited to support the young musicians of the Berkshire Maestros Bracknell and Wokingham Music Centre, who led the crowds in the lead up to the turning-on of the town’s Christmas lights. The musical future of the town is very much in safe hands!
On 1st December 2018, the band performed as Day 1 of the Wokingham Living Advent Calendar at Wokingham Town Hall. Supporting the Thames Valley Hospice, the advent calendar showcases local artists each day leading up to Christmas. This year our performance was broadcast live via Facebook to a number of viewers down under, making it a truly international event!
Finally, in-between numerous carolling appearances at local supermarkets, housing estates and shopping centres, we performed our own Christmas concert on 14th December 2018 at Wokingham Town Hall. Playing to another packed house, the band performed a varied concert of carols (as selected by followers of the band’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the lead-up to the concert), well-known Christmas numbers, as well as some non-Christmas music also.
The highlight for many was the band’s performance of Philip Harper’s The Greatest Storyteller, a piece of work arranged for the Cory Band’s Brass in Concert entertainment programme in 2017 to commemorate the life of Roald Dahl. The piece comprises three tunes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, and gave a number of soloists from the band a chance to shine. Soprano Cornet Llewellyn Wells featured in the title number from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, while our euphonium duo of Rosie Saxton and Mark Lowe performed together during Pure Imagination. Finally, Principle Cornet George Sandford led the finale of When I Grow Up.
Finally, our Christmas concert gave us the chance to reward particular members of the band for their hard work and contribution to Saints over the course of the previous year. This year, 2nd Baritone player and Contest Secretary Leighton Cornelius was voted Bandsman of the Year by the rest of the band, while Bb Bass Josh Moorhouse was awarded the MD’s Musician of the Year award, with both being richly deserved.
Like hundreds of other bands up and down the country, Saints once again were proud to do our bit for Remembrance Sunday, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
This year, in addition to supporting Remembrance Sunday itself, Saints performed a Remembrance-inspired concert at the Market in Wokingham town centre on 27 October 2018. On an extremely cold Saturday morning, the band performed a number of pieces to a large number of appreciative shoppers, comprising a number of band classics as well as more poignant military marches and hymns.
On Remembrance Sunday itself, Saints first led the march at Wargrave before returning to Wokingham town centre to lead the procession to the All Saints Church. It was amazing to see the streets of the town packed with people paying their respects and we were again immensely privileged to be able to play our part in this.
Following our successful second-place finish at the Regional Finals in March, on 16 September 2018 Saints made the relatively short trip up the M4 to Cheltenham to join 17 other bands at the National Finals at the Racecourse. This was the second time in three years we had made it to the Second Section Finals.
This year, bands in the Second Section had been set Stephen Bulla’s Firestorm as the test piece. The piece was composed for the tenth anniversary of the United States Army Brass Band and had its first performance at the Gala Concert of the North-American Brass Band Championships on 27th April 1991. The inspiration for the piece was the war in the Persian Gulf and its continuous presentation to the world through the medium of television. Bulla wanted to capture the emotion and colour of the events of war as they were played out on the television screen. Comprising the sounds of airborne bombing raids, flashback sequences, a Baghdad market and the unspoiled beauty of the Iraqi countryside before the siege, the final page of the score bears the poignant inscription: Completed February 26 1991, Kuwait liberated today.
Unfortunately for us, this was an occasion where we very much ‘left our best in the bandroom’, and it is fair to say that the performance we gave on the day was not of the standard we had achieved in the run-up to the finals. Once the dust had settled we found ourselves ranked seventeenth. While obviously a disappointing result after all the work we had put in, it was a privilege just to be able to take part in the finals and compete with the very best bands in our section from across the country. Getting to grips with such a difficult piece was certainly an experience which benefited the band greatly.
A special thank you must also go to the Pontardulais Town Band, also competing in our section, for lending us a Bb Bass at the very last moment before we were due to take to the stage. In the final rehearsal in the warmup room before our performance, a valve guide on one of our own basses decided to pick that moment to snap in two, and the Bb Bass player of Pontardulais did not flinch in lending us their instrument. This very much summed up the spirit of the weekend.
On 8 September 2018, Malta Day was once again celebrated in London. This event, in its 14th year, has become the leading feature in the calendar of Maltese communities and individuals in the UK. Saints have now been privileged to provide musical entertainment to the large number of Maltese and their families and friends who have travelled from all over the UK to attend the national festival for the last few years.
The day began with a Maltese Fair held in the Westminster Cathedral Hall, at which Saints provided music of all genres, including a number of very traditional Maltese marches and folk songs. After having the opportunity to sample some of the various Maltese food and drink on offer at the Fair, we were privileged to accompany the Gaulitanus Choir with psalms and hymns during the celebration of Solemn Mass inside Westminster Cathedral itself.
The event marked another great success for Malta Day and the Maltese community within the UK. It is an event which we are proud to support and look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.
On 16 June 2018, Saints performed our ‘Conquest of Paradise’ concert to a packed Wokingham Town Hall. The concert provided a great opportunity for the band to perform its American-themed entertainment programme, originally conceived for the SCABA Entertainment contest but the same being very well received during the ‘Reading Festival of Brass’, together with some newer items which had been prepared by the band specifically for the concert.
The concert also provided the ideal setting for one final outing of the 2018 Regional Test Piece, Jonathan Bates’ Ex Terra Lucem, following Saints’ second-place performance of the piece at this year’s regional contest, enough to secure a place in the National Finals in Cheltenham later this year.
The concert was a massive success and we thank everyone who came and contributed to what was a great evening for the band. For the band, attention now turns to this year’s National Finals piece, Stephen Bulla’s Firestorm.
On Sunday 20th May 2018, Saints were proud to join together with the Reading Spring Gardens Band for the first ‘Reading Festival of Brass’ event at Christ Church in Woodley. The band had been working hard in preparation for the annual SCABA Entertainment contest in Crawley, but unfortunately this was cancelled at fairly short notice. Eager not to waste the time spent preparing our American-based entertainment programme, we were delighted to get the opportunity to perform with Spring Gardens, who found themselves in exactly the same situation as ourselves. The event also offered the opportunity to raise some funds for the Christian disability charity ‘CBM’.
After Spring Gardens entertained the crowd with their programme, Saints opened our contribution with Vangelis’ ‘Conquest of Paradise’, which saw the band enter section by section during the piece until the full band was united together onstage. Karl King’s march ‘The Trombone King’ followed, with contrast provided thereafter with Alan Fernie’s arrangement of ‘Deep River’ (the second movement of his ‘Southern Gospel Suite’). The band’s solo item featured Damon Emes on flugel performing ‘Under the Boardwalk’, as arranged by Philip Harper for the Cory Band’s ‘Brass in Concert’ programme 2017. The finale to our programme featured a number of well known American pieces contained within Dan Price’s ‘An American Tale’.
Following the conclusion of our programme, Saints and Spring Gardens joined forces for the conclusion of the concert, performing the march ‘Imperial Echos’, the Bandsman’s Hymn ‘Deep Harmony’ and the National Anthem.
The event was a great success and raised just under £200 for a good charitable cause. We look forward to joining together with Spring Gardens again in the future.